Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mt Anne

So i had ticked a dream, solo the Tote. what next? after a few more weeks slaving away trying to get the bank fat i was about ready for another adventure. about 12 months ago garry had made noises about an unclimbed cliff on the backside of Mt Anne, in the states southwest. we talked about it all summer but thats all we did, talk. i checked the forecast and saw there were a few good days coming up the next week so we committed to the trip. Anna and her friend, Michelle were gonna tag along for the ride and keep the tea-pot on at basecamp. we made plans on how we would tackle the 210m of unknown climbing that would await us.

the last time someone had tried the face was in the late 70's. they had started up three different lines but lack of modern gear to fit the fused cracks led to retreat. we planned to go light and fast, taking only the bare essentials. we would have one small pack, hauled on a 6mm tag-line so the second could follow free. we took a double rack and small selection of pins, peckers and RURP's. we thought that leading all pitches on a single rope would be best. we packed all the gear into Michelles car and made the drive down. it was awhile since id been up that cursed hill but it didnt seem so bad, even with ropes and the rack!! we kept trudging up and up until we made to the Eliza hut, just below the plateau. we decided to sleep here and walk across in the morning. i had minimal bivy gear so this would be the warmest. in future however id sleep closer to Mt Anne.

with a pre-dawn start we were up and at it with a vengence. we stormed across the plateau and made good time. we arrived just below the summit and started skirting around to the East side of the hill, away from the track. we kept going down and down, passing a million unclimbed single-pitch mega classics. just a shame about the walk up to them! the gully we were in got steeper and steeper until we hit an impasse, a 10m vertical step. we had to abseil. garry hunted for an anchor, the fused rock didnt lend itself to anything decent. with a cry of amazment garry found two old pins with some faded tat. he replaced the sling and backed it up and i went over the edge with the pack, bounce testing as i went. a full 50m rap saw us out of the gully. we were soon looking up at a pretty damn intimidating face, miles from no-where with rescue days away. truly commited, all of lifes mundane bullshit faded away. we scoped the face for a few minutes, trying to find the easiest looking line. we decided on a corner system that went straight up, through the highest part of the cliff. we set off up the ever steepening scree to the base, relieved there was no scrub bashing!!!

with a belay in at the base of the wall proper we got organised and employed the time honoured rock paper scissors. im sure theres hyroglyphs in the pyramids of early games. i won and set up, climbing delicately past some loose rocks to gain what i thought looked like a bomber hand crack. after 10m i got into the crack. it started out perfect hands, dreamy climbing. i looked up and saw a hex hammered in as a lower-off. the badarse trad-masters of yesterdays' high point. i clipped it and struggled up. the crack had widened to #4 Camalot fisty-cuffs. i thrutched away, bitching and moaning. walking my only #4 up i constantly thought about uttering that lifesaving word, "take". but no, this was time to sack-up and give it hell! letting out some grunts and screams i somehow managed to grab a jug. so pumped i could barely hold on, i yanked hard and found myself on a comfy belay ledge. i whipped out the nut-tool and revealed a 5 piece belay on RP's and micro cams, where was a nice crack when i needed it!

garry quickly followed, laybacking the fisty-cuff section. before too long he was racked and ready to tackle the next pitch. he started up, it looked hard and bouldery. he gave his all but pinged off as a foot hold blew, landing on his 00 friend. pulling up on gear through the crux he gained a perfect, slightly overhanging finger crack and worked his way up. all i could hear were cries of delight. he soon had an anchor in and i was away! i wiggled his gear out and managed to free the bouldery crux at hard 22, maybe 23(definately in victoria, but they're homo's!!) to gain the finger crack. this was pure bliss. clean and steep with the odd footer thrown in capped by an incredibly unlikey traverse made this an amzing pitch. the location only added to it! we didnt care that we hadn't 'properly' freed that pitch, we were just trying to get up and out!!

i started up the next pitch, easy climbing, about grade 16 led me up a corner. we couldnt see where to go from here. i might be able to get into the next line left but it was a jungle of bushes and trees. the crack i was in was capped by a roof. i climbed up to the roof, shouting out to garry to check the camera, maybe he could see something on the pics we took that morning.

'can u go left, man?'

i gaze out across a 5m blank dolerite wall.

'nah dude what does it look like right?'

'ummm...' he pauses, 'yeh give that a try...'

i frigged a bomber anchor in the corner, i wanted to get around the arete a few metres away. as i did this i noticed a small edge. i stepped right and commited. damn, i was on the arete now. slapping blindly around it i found a jug slightly below my waist level. i jumped down and around to get it, smearing like a madman to mantle onto it. shit, there was no way back now and i had just stepped into some crazy exposure! crap, no gear, i made a few moves in and chucked in a small wire and a 00 C3. ahead looked hard. i moved up insecurely and tried to punch through. i whipped off, landing on the small cam. freaked out i aided a few moves and put in a belay. the rope drag was killer so i couldnt continue. i should have belayed in the other corner system, and double ropes would have helped!!

garry came up and we decided i should aid the section above for speeds sake. it didnt look too easy and we thought that would be the quickest way to go! i raced up it on A1 placements with the odd dicey cam thrown in. after 55m i tension traversed left to gain the summit, of this buttress anyway. the cold forced garry to jug the line, quickly joining me at the top of 170m of the steepest alpine dolerite ive ever climbed on. this place is the future for hard adventure routes! we hoped to just walk off easily. we could see the girls at shelf camp and were super keen for some hot tea! unfortunately there was more climbing to come.

there was a 50m buttress above us that we couldnt go around, so we started up, aiming for a rockscar that had made a corner. i aided up the corner, it will make an amazing free pitch, probably 24 or so. but fatigue, cold and darkness led us to the quick decision to just get out! as garry topped out with his trademark hissy fit, the last of the light faded, leaving us in the dark.

we stumbled across back to shelf camp in the black night. much to our liking the girls had soup ready for us when we got back. i should invite these guys along more often!! we set up the tent on a flat rock and turned in when heavy mist set in, the kind that just gets u damp all over, not in a good way. i managed to get a few hours of fitful dozing in before the rain set in. it wasnt long before water settled in a puddle under the tent. if only we'd seam sealed it like we said we should. soon my down bag was soaked. it was grim, i had all my clothes on, and still i shivered like a crazy man. i begged the sun to rear its warming head so we could get up and go! slowly it grew light, but we were still in the mist. we walked out and eventually came out of the cloud. we were stoked to have had perfect weather the day we climbed. after a hamburger on the way back home i slept like a wee baby, as happy as can be.

so whats the next adventure?!?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Playing with a Pole

Working for 'the man' was killing me slowly. Cage rage was slowly building up and i needed to break out and do something fun crazy and out there. Over new years Lauren Chandler came down for a trip to tas and i showed her some of the best places about. it was then i decided to go do something i had always dreamed of. I headed back to Melbourne for a few more weeks work, everyday thinking about the mission at hand. Soon the time came and i landed back onto the Hobart airport. i didnt bother checking the forecast for the next day, i own a rain-coat so that was inconsequential. As i drove down i was as happy as a pig in mud, the sky was blue!!!

i pulled into Fortesque Bay and paid my fees to avoid another run-in with the over zealous caretaker.(thats another story...) i shouldered the pack full of aiders ropes and other widgets to allow me to rope-solo the Aid Route(A3+/27 65m) on the Totem Pole. My housemate, Doug, had recently freeclimbed the line so his chalk was all over the route. he still had his tyrolean set-up to the summit, i could have gone across this and down but i wasnt feeling particularly homo so i set off to do it properly, ground-up.

the swing to the base is hard enough usually, i had a full aid-rack plus a lead rope plus four aiders plus the partridge in a pear tree so it took 3 goes to snag the new hangers at the belay. (cheers doug and deano!) the surf was pounding and the wind howling so i frigged in a belay and set off in search of dry rock. i made it to the higher belay without much fuss, theres heaps of bolts down low so i could move fast. i moved the belay higher, out of the waves then continued upwards.
i managed to get 10m out before i tried to go higher and was tugged back down by the gri-gri. with no good method for stacking the rope at the belay i had to head back down to clean up the tangles the wind had created, costing me more time.

soon i was looking up at the meat of the route, a thin seam that heads up to some hooks to the bolt-belay. i had to step around the arete into the seam and was exposed to the full force of the 70kmph winds! getting thrown around like a rag doll i continued up of tenious RPs before i faced an impass, the only bit that accepted gear had a useless rusty stub sticking out. i searched for ages to find anything to use. finally i moved off a tipped #1 pecker. up another foot the prospects of gear were no better. i ended up settling on a shitty sloping edge with a small dimple for a skyhook on the arete. staddling the arete i commited to the hook, watching my pecker fall out as i did so. i looked down past all the worthless pro and figured i'd end up somewhere near the sea when this hook blew. a minute passed and i was still there, the stuong gusts meant i couldnt get high on the piece and i dont know how my rocking around didnt dislodge it. i searched manically for the next piece, another shitty hook. about to commit to it i paused, this hook was suicide. there had to be something better. thirty second later i found it, a positive edge to sink my 'talon's into. highstepping up i clipped the bolt of the anchor, mumbling about how im selling my aid gear after this. it still staggers me that i didnt take the plunge.

i continued up of the belay passing the thin RURP seam. some hooking and delicately placed peckers saw me through to the final A1 crack to the summit. at this stage i heard voices, turning round to see two climbers. they had decided it too windy to climb that day but still came for a look. snapping off some pics they came across the tyrolean and joined me on the summit ledge. i had been to the true summit only weeks before but i had to go up once more, marking the first solo ascent of the Totem Pole. i smiled all the way back home, making the chesire cat look like a manic-depressive emo teen.